Airplane passenger sentenced to 8 months for slapping toddler

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The Associated Press reports a federal judge sentenced the man who slapped a crying toddler on an airplane to eight months in prison.

Federal prosecutors had recommended six months after reaching a deal with Joe Rickey Hundley, 61, who pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge in October.

U.S. Magistrate Alan Baverman said he imposed additional time because of Hundley's history of assault.

Hundley, who lived in Idaho last February when the assault occurred, was on a Delta flight from Minneapolis to Atlanta. He was seated in a window seat in the same row as Jessica Bennett, who was sitting in the aisle seat with her 19-month-old son on her lap, according to court filings.

As the plane descended into Atlanta, the child started crying. Hundley leaned over to Bennett and "told her to shut that (N-word) baby up," according to a sworn statement from an FBI agent who investigated the incident.

Hundley, who is white, then slapped the child, who is black, leaving a scratch below his right eye, the FBI agent's statement says.

An attorney for Hundley said her client was drinking on the flight, but also noted he was dealing with a personal tragedy.

According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the attorney said Hundley had been awake for 24 hours straight after deciding to have his adult son, who was lying brain-dead in a hospital, taken off life support.

“He lost a child,” Hundley's attorney said. “And to hear a child scream … he lost it. He was up for 24 hours determining whether to unplug his son.”

Hundley apologized to Bennett in court. Bennett testified that the incident had serious emotional consequences for both her and her son.

The magistrate also sentenced Hundley to pay $105 restitution to Bennett, and to pay $2,500 to the government.

"You cannot assault another individual, regardless of how sad or upset, or even how intoxicated or sick, you are," Baverman said.

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